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I had high hopes for Puerto Princesa (PP), but I was left a bit disappointed.
I had done one of the two ‘recommended’ tours whilst in PP: The Honda Bay Snorkelling Trip.
There was one more to do (the Underground River in Sabang) before I headed for Port Barton (and onwards).
In Puerto Princesa, I was offered a return day trip to the Underground River (all inclusive of fees, etc) for PHP1200… but, I decided to make my own way to Sabang and discover it myself. I planned to stay there 4 nights and make a real trip of it. Not just one day.
HOTEL TO BUS STATION:
I had rented a scooter for 7 days in Puerto Princesa so that I could check the city out for the best places to stay and to take a trip up the coast (amongst other things – like having freedom of movement).
As I had a scooter already, I drove the 6kms up the North Road to the bus station to check out how to get to Sabang.
The receptionist at my hotel (the Casitas De Az Pension) recommended Lexxus.
I found their bus terminal on the Saturday and reserved a seat on the Monday at 10:30am. I wasn’t issued a ticket nor any form of paperwork… they just took my name and told me to ‘turn up on the day and pay the driver’.
On the Monday morning, I checked out of my hotel at 9:00am, threw my backpack on my back, my suitcase on the scooter in front of me and hit the road to my scooter rental place to return my scooter (and collect my passport).
With my 20Kg suitcase between me and the handle bars, I decided to go slow and take the back route (to avoid the traffic).
I got to the rental place, returned my scooter, and asked him how much I should pay for a Tribike to the bus station; he said PHP100. He was kind enough to flag a Tribike down for me and negotiate the price with the driver (I already knew that the ‘locals’ pay PHP100 to the Honda Bay Harbour which is twice as far – but didn’t care).
It took about 20-25 minutes in traffic up the North Road to get to the bus station.
You pass the Robinsons Mall and turn left at the Shell Petrol Station.
I haven’t caught a Jeepney yet, but this is what one looks like (they are the cheapest way to get around – if you know hat you are doing).
CATCHING THE MINIVAN:
The Bus Station is not ‘as we know it in the west’.
I was there at 10:00am in plenty of time for my 10:30am ‘booking’.
There are about 6-8 different routes from this Lexxus terminal, so you have to make sure that you know what’s going on. The minivans are meant to draw up under the sign to their destination… but, do not always do so.
The minivan finally drew up (in the wrong lane) at 11:30am. The passenger’s luggage was thrown into the roof rack and we clambered on board.
They knew that I was on that minivan… “Richardson?’ they asked…
The driver collected his fares (PHP200 each) and we left at 11:45am.
Please Note: This is perfect example of when you change your PHP1000 notes which the ATMs have given to you. You MUST change your PHP500s and PHP1000s at EVERY OPPORTUNITY. My rule of thumb is that if I am paying about PHP100 for something, I give them a PHP500 note and if I am paying about PHP200 for something, I give them a PHP1000 note. If you do not take these opportunities, you will very quickly end up short of small change (with no-one to give you change when you buy small items).
GETTING TO SABANG:
I had been told at the Lexxus Terminal that the trip takes about 2 hours (maybe 2.5).
We headed off at speed…
These minivans do not offer much room. For a big man (like me at 6′ 3″) you cannot get your legs in the space in front of you… I had to sit sideways on the end of a 3 person seat that I was sharing with 2 Filipino girls (both with big, ‘woman’ sized bums).
There are no stops on the way.
You pass through pristine countryside on windy roads. I had no choice but to stare out of the side window.
We were in Sabang by 1:15pm (only 1.5 hours).
WHAT I FOUND:
I had looked online to pre-book a hotel but there was nothing less than PHP1300 / night.
At that price, I was prepared to take a gamble and see what I found once I got there… how bad could it be? The worse case scenario is that I get back online and pay PHP1300 (which I did not want to do)!
We got off of the minivan and grabbed our luggage.
There was a very friendly Lexxus guy at the Sabang terminal who was helping everyone on our minivan find accommodation.
He looked at me and, probably, thought that I was looking up-market (compared to the other young backpackers in the minivan)…
He pointed at one hotel with aircon at PHP2000 / night and another at PHP1300 / night.
I asked for a simple room with fan (I don’t like aircon).
He pointed in the other direction along the beach to the east and suggested 2 places. Off I went…
It is a sand track so I had to throw my suitcase on my shoulders.
I got to the suggested place and I was greeted by a very helpful and friendly man ‘ Elma’ who looked after me. They could offer me a very basic Double fan room with cold water shower for PHP600. It was at the back of the resort facing the mountains.
I asked if he had something facing the beach with a sea breeze…
He said ‘yes’, but tomorrow. The one at the front was PHP800. I offered him PHP600 for the first room and PHP700 for 3 nights on the beachfront. He agreed. The deal was done…
I went to reception to ‘register’ and provide my passport details.
I paid her PHP2700 up front in cash. She looked confused… ‘do you want to see your room first?’ she asked… ‘no’ I said, ‘I trust you to give me a nice room’ and smiled.
Read my next post to see how I get on…
I have just found the Philippines that I am looking for.
As soon as I walked into this place… I liked it.
I will let you know more in future posts… Come back to my website for more later!
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